The wonders of my father


so i am coming to the close of being in college, to the close of being an active "kid." and i've been thinking a lot about the whole experience of growing up with a gay parent.
i've been teasing a friend (who's queer) that i'm homophobic. the truth is that i've been so tired of the queer community, ready to embrace MY identity, that i've not been all that active or interested in the queer stuff. not interested in seeing ANOTHER movie about queer people. it's time for me to explore what heterosexuality is all about. and i know i know the world IS socially het. but to give an idea of the films i used to watch as a kid...."torch song trilogy," "la cage aux folles...." you get the idea. we're talking about a six, seven, eight year old kid. in no way am i claiming i was warped or demented by these exposures to homosexual lifestyles, but rather, that when college-aged people are embracing their queer identities, reveling in coming out, it's something i am entirely familiar with. i am entirely part of this community...except for the fact that i am not always welcome in these communities. and this is something else i've been thinking about.
why is it that until a lot of the queer people on campus knew that "girl with gay dad" who looks straight and narrow, whitebread and all, was in fact part of the community, they never really acknoweldged me (even after meeting me once or twice in non-queer contexts)? i know, i am sympathetic to the hesitancy and the guardedness necessary at this point in one's life, or at any point in one's life, when dealing with the "non-traditional." but it frustrates me. i hate being seen as just part of these superficial qualities. white, straight....blah blah. this is a larger problem not directly related to the queer thing, but i'm sort of sick of it. i'm ready to explore my identity. i've spent time in the closet too, you know.
how often can you really tell people that you're one of those kids of the perverted, abnormal, sociopaths who happen to love people who have the same equipment as them. let me tell you, i've been to friends' homes (i can think of one example in particular) where the discussion has been about how wrong and abnormal and destructive it is for gay people to have/adopt/want children. where could i speak up? my family was being utterly derided and condemned. what do you think it was like, growing up in the eighties, to see NO images of my family life, none. except for "my two dads" (which i've only seen one or two episodes of, and i remember there being heavy emphasis on the HET nature of the dads).
so now, the kids coming out now, they can at least see representations of themselves. not always positive, but they're there. the mainstream t.v. shows often deal with the queer characters. the first girl=girl kiss, the partners denied legal recognition. but still, it's so so so so so so rare to ever hear what those of us who grew up amidst all this feel like. so rare for anyone to acknowledge that my family's divorce was a CRITICAL case in furthering gay rights. that's right, y'all, my life has been open booked, in major ny papers (and we're talking nyc, not just the dinky ol' state), and my life has been dramatically, irrevocably shaped because my father was gay. so yeah, i may look like i don't know your experience.
i may look so damn straight, so damn ignorant, so damn privileged to be able to hold my honey's hand in public. but let me remind you, i too have lived through homophobia. and i too have been a part of what makes it possible for you to openly (or at least in swarthmore's liberal ooh ooh campus) consider having a family. look, i may be venting, and frustrated right now, but i need to get it out. i'm not asking for medals or accolades, i just want to remind you all out there, that there are straight people who care, straight people who have been affected by all this. and don't you damn generalize me into a lumpen pool of straight white people. i am more than that.....
that said, i will return to the outdated, less aggressive part of the tale....

I live with my father, who is gay. It has definitely been a different experience. I don't get along with my mother, never have, never will.

When I was eight the judge awarded my father custody. That was only because my mother tried to kidnap me and break the custody agreement. She tried to keep me in Florida, where her parents live, and start me in school. I also vaguely remember something about her trying to have me pretend to be a boy, I guess so we wouldn't be found. But a sheriff came after us, and I was returned home to NY in time to start third grade.

I never told anyone in school about my dad. Once in seventh grade, my dad said something to a friend of mine who was making a homophobic statement, so she knew. I don't know if she ever told anyone or not. It was uncomfortable for me for a while. I also told one of my friends from high school, who is fairly, and unusually, open-minded. But that's it. Once I got to college, though, it seemed easier to tell people, and I didn't care anymore who knows. But I still think it's an important thing to know about me.

The weird thing that's happened this summer is that people seem to get strangely excited about my dad's homosexuality. My friend Amir, who worked with me at Starbucks (a summer's surrender to capitalism), was so thrilled to ask me questions about my dad and my experience. Then, the same evening, in fact, a friend of mine asked me if it were true that my dad is gay. He had "heard it somewhere" at school. Suddenly it's cool, or at least interestingly different. I never knew, or I would have been more open about it before. Well, maybe not. Especially, as I said before, not at my high school.

My father is one of the most amazing people I know. He has always had so much faith in me and my ideas. He's given so much emotional support and strength. Without a real relationship with my mother, my father has truly succeeded in getting me through, playing as many roles as possible while working until ten p.m. most nights. He instilled my love for grammar, theater (especially Shakespeare), languages, and learning. It sounds trite, I guess, but I am completely in awe of him. He can be intimidating, although he denies it's possible. I think I am beginning to understand him better and find him less scary (not that I was ever that fearful of him). He has scared a number of boyfriends, especially the most recent one. Our relationship has become so much more interesting now that I have started talking to him about things that are going on in my life. He always has fascinating opinions, and we both love to talk and argue. I guess I am so impressed with him because of how seriously he took raising me and what a good job he did, in spite of my many flaws.

Since my return home over October break, I have really begun to realize what an important role my father plays in my life. He grounds me and stabilizes me. I was feeling really down when I went home, and sort of like the world was out of control. One evening we started talking, and he was able to make everything so clear cut. Our conversation and subsequent ones made me feel so much more in control of my life, the way I used to think when I lived at home in high school. Even more so, maybe, since our conversations have been much more personal for me than the ones we would have in high school. I realize now what a great parent he has been and how well he provided for me to the best of his ability. I think my childhood in my father's house was really great. I used to have three or four parties a year; he would make these elaborate Halloween costumes for me, just the little stuff that adds up. I wish I could express my awe and overwhelming love for him, and I hope that I am even sort of conveying how I feel.

A new crazy thing, I recently remembered to put up here, is that my dad and I have never owned a car. Gasp. By the time I was two, my dad had gotten a kids' seat for the back of his bike, but by the time I was six, I was much too big. (I was a big kid, until everyone else caught up with me, I would be on the 98th percentile in height charts.) Then, the summer before second grade, we got us a tandem in Raleigh, NC. We used to bike around NY on our tandem (bicycle built for two), and I have to admit, I loved all the "how cool" remarks people would make. That was between the ages of six and about twelve, then I got too old, and decided I preferred biking on my own, anyway. In our house, we have always had at least three or four bikes at a time. When my father was with Tim [not to be confused with "little Tim", as he's referred to in my house] (his ex-longtime partner, they were together for about nine years, and "big Tim" still lives in our building), we had four or five bikes. We each had our own, and then there was the tandem, and sometimes an extra one. By seventh grade, I would bike to school by myself. That caused a ruckus with my mother, who was convinced that I would be rolled over by the crazy NY drivers. But it kept me in good shape, and it gave me a lot of independence. I have even biked in one of the worst snow storms, a few years back. I bike in the rain, often without rain gear, which is dumb, I admit, but adds to my tough biker chick persona. Since I've been at Swat, though, I haven't needed to bike as much, and I have gotten lazy. Still, my bike is my baby. It's definitely one of the cooler things my dad has raised me to love.

my research on kids with gay parents | do you have a gay parent? COLAGE is there for you | rachel's webpage, great kids of gay parents references |
caitlin's webpage, more kids of gays stuff